Catskills Conversations: Tim & Jess Luby

© J.N. Urbanski 3pm

© J.N. Urbanski

Tim and Jess Luby own the Storehouse in Phoenicia. Last year, they were married on Giant Ledge, having hiked two miles in wedding attire and hiking boots.

JN: What brought you to the Catskills?

TL: The mountains. When Jess and I started dating, we both enjoyed hiking, so we planned a trip up there.

Are you from New York?

TL: No, I’m from New Jersey originally and Jess is from Massachusetts

What do you guys do there?

JL: We both work in pharmaceutical marketing in New York City.

TL: It’s not very exciting, really, which is why we starting the store. We create and develop sales and promotional materials for sales reps to take to doctors’ offices.

How does one get into that?

TL: After school, I just got into advertising. I’m a writer.

So did you both go to college in NYC?

TL: No, I went to school in Boston and Jess went to school in Framingham, Mass.

JL: But Tim is ten years older than I, so we did not cross paths.

So what was your first trip to the Catskills?

TL: We really went up there to go hiking. We had both read about the Devil’s Path. They were saying all these crazy things, like it was a dangerous place, so we thought we’d give it a try and we went to a place called Indian Head, and it wasn’t that bad.

So have you done Devil’s Path?

TL: Various sections of it: we haven’t done the whole length of it yet.

So tell me about that, because I really want to do the Catskills 35 this year. Can you hike all of it or do you have to camp along the way?

TL: It’s 24 miles and it’s pretty gnarly stuff. It’s pretty rugged and at least an overnight is a way to do it. There are some people who can knock it out in a day, but it’s best to enjoy it one or two nights.

I’m not looking forward to that now [laughs].

TL: No, it’s fun.

What made you start the Storehouse and how long has it been going?

TL: We’ve been going since last September and it basically happened because I forgot a tent stake when we were up camping, so we were screwed that night. We weren’t able to set up our tent because we forgot that, so we had no place to go that was nearby, and we ended up renting a room in this crummy place. We woke up the next morning thinking there’s no place like that around here, so maybe we should give it a shot.

How many days a week is the store open?

JL: We’re only open on the weekends for now. We have full-time jobs during the week and we opened late in the season last year, so we’re just going to give weekends a try. We’ll see how this season goes. We’re trying to figure out a way to open more than on weekends, but we haven’t quite figured out that portion of it yet.

Did you have a good Memorial Day weekend in terms of sales?

JL: Yes, we had a great weekend. It was good to see lots of people come and we got to meet a bunch of new people.

So is it tough having a week job and then coming up on the weekends?

JL: When we work for the store, or on the store, it doesn’t seem like work. The biggest problem is not wanting to be working during the week, but wanting to be up in our store and cultivating that business. That’s the toughest part.

When was the last time you had a day off?

JL: Practically never since we first started the business. We’re always thinking about the store and doing stuff for the store. But, Tim and I try to keep it so that if we’re there on the weekends, I’ll go out for a hike and the next day he can go for a run or go for a hike, so we’re still doing things that we like to do and being able to get out and have some fun.

I feel like when you have a business you don’t really have a day off. You’re always thinking about ways to grow the business. It’s never-ending.

I thoroughly and wholeheartedly agree with you. You just have to snatch moments: a few hours here and few hours there.

JL: Exactly: to kind of refresh.

So what sort of things do you sell in the Storehouse?

JL: Camping and hiking essentials: tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, sleeping pads and all the other littler items like camping silverware, pots, pans, flashlights, dehydrated foods, etc.

Aside from selling the gear, we also rent gear out, which is good for people who do have an item at home, but forgot it and don’t want to buy another one. Also, for people from the city that don’t have the space to hold gear, but want to go camping and for people who want to try camping.

Another side of our business that we’re going to try and grow is Campsite Concierge where, if you’re renting from us, we’ll set up your tent at your campsite at one of the local campgrounds, ready for you for when you arrive.

We also have a wide variety of tent stakes.

I bet you do!

JL: We are constantly trying to add what we think people are looking for, but otherwise think we have a good representation of what you need when you go camping in the Catskills.

In partnership with Jeff Vincent, who is an ordained minister, we will be conducting outdoor wedding ceremonies. We are going to offer hiking wedding experiences to other people. Amy Jackson from Amy’s Take-Away will provide the food.

What are your opening hours?

JL: For now it’s 9.30-5.30 on Saturday and Sunday, but now as the weather gets nicer, we’re going to try and expand our hours.

Have you had any hikers running in for stuff like tent stakes since you opened?

JL: There was a guy who stopped in last weekend who forgot a piece of his water bladder and there was someone last week who stopped in for a flashlight. So we’ve already seen it at the beginning of the season, the small things that they forgot.

So I’ve been asking this question of everyone lately: what is work?

JL: I have two different ideas of what work could be, because I don’t consider what we’re doing at the store work. I consider work to be going somewhere for a certain amount of time – 9-5 or 7-3 – doing labor of some sort for money to be able to provide for your needs. That’s work for me. Working in the store, I don’t see it that way at all.

Once you get sucked into the Catskills, you won’t want to leave.

JL: We already see it happening.

TL: Leaving on Sunday night is the hardest part of our job. The rest of it’s pretty easy, that’s the hardest part that really sucks.

You’ve already got great exposure by having a store in Phoenicia, which has received a lot of press this year. I don’t know why they’re focusing on Phoenicia because there are so many great towns up here. You’re right in the middle of it there.

TL: It’s right at the crossroads of all the hiking: right in the middle of everything. We were looking at Tannersville first, but we saw this neat little spot right on the boardwalk. It seemed perfect for us.

What inspires you most about the Catskills?

TL: Well it’s been incredibly inspiring to see people of all ages coming up here to experience and enjoy the natural beauty of the Catskills. It’s reassuring that, in this day and age of technology, people are still going back to nature.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

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